Sunday, July 18, 2010
I was an Intrepid Butterfly Hunter back then. Armed with my stupid-ass butterfly net, I would capture those wingèd beauties by the dozens.
No trap-and-release for this boy, not back then in those environmentally insensitive days. My captures would immediately be transferred to a killing jar, where carbon tetrachloride vapors would put the quietus to them in moments. (Gawd only knows what those same carbon tet vapors were doing to my genetic material, or how many brain cells they were killing... but who thought of such arcane concerns back then?) The now-defunct butterflies would then go into a relaxing box, where a moist environment would soften them up enough to permit unfolding and flattening out the wings on a mounting board, there to dry thoroughly. At the end of the process, you would have a lovely preserved specimen, suitable for display in a mounting frame or for shoving in a shoebox until it gradually decayed into a desiccated pile of Butterfly-Dust.
Our buddleia was a powerful attractant. Butterflies of every variety would flock there, along with enormous hummingbird moths and fat bumblebees. And no butterfly was safe from my youthful depredations. Tiger swallowtails, regal fritillaries, admirals, yellow sulphurs, monarchs - all of these were grist for the Elisson Butterfly-Mill. I still have a few of those dried-out sumbitches, even after all these years, moldering away in a shoebox... a reminder of lazy, wonder-filled summer days of long ago.
I recalled our old Butterfly Bush a few days ago when we stopped by for a visit with my cousin Diane and her husband Charles, just outside of Tampa. They live in a butterfly-friendly environment, hard by a wildlife refuge - with a yard filled with buddleia and bordered by milkweed.
Take a walk in that yard and you just might stumble upon some hot monarch-on-monarch action:
Monarchs in the grass, alas.
Or you might see a giant swallowtail supping upon that sweet, sweet nectar:
Big fella: The elusive Giant Swallowtail.
All of this nectar-sipping pleasantness is just fine, but one thing I have learned in those many years since I chased those fluttering, elusive creatures around the back yard fifty years ago: Beautiful as they are, butterflies are still flies.